Tuesday 31 December 2002

NHS breakthrough - increased funding justified!

Glennis Middleton accidentally drank some anti-freeze and was rushed to hospital. The National Health Service was fully up to the challenge:
Doctors at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee told her that alcohol was the antidote and gave her a choice of gin, vodka or whisky.
Being Scotland, she chose the whisky.


Doctors stress that the correct dose has to be given and blood levels monitored thereafter.
Most Scots are quite able to calculate the "correct dose" without medical intervention. Nevertheless, we must hail this breakthrough in medical treatment.

A happy new year to all readers. Keep taking the whisky but cut down on the anti-freeze.

Good news from Norway

The Norwegian government has cut the whisky tax:
From 1 January, Norway’s crippling taxes on Scotch whisky imports are set to be cut by 9 per cent - equivalent to around £1.30 per bottle - in an attempt to clamp down on black market trading.
According to the Scotch Whisky Association:
"The Nordic countries have fiscal sovereignty and can set tax rates as they see fit, but they have to realise that it is unrealistic to expect people to pay such high taxes."
But surely having "fiscal responsibility" is some form of anti-EU xenophobia. So what? Let's raise a glass to the Norwegians tonight.

Monday 30 December 2002

Free travel and free whisky!

Today it was time to visit Borders to catch up with political, aeronautical and photographic magazines. Normally I go to the Edinburgh branch, but that involves a 7 mile drive through the busy pre-hogmanay city centre and out to an eastern suburban retail park. It's actually quicker and less stressful to take the train for the 45 miles to Glasgow. I discovered that today was to see the last journey of the Type 303 electric train, which revolutionised travel in the UK's second-largest suburban rail network. After arriving in Glasgow I made my way to the inner-city station of Bellgrove and boarded the "last train". At Queen Street there was a large group of photographers, a piper and various dignitaries. The ticket collector then came through the train to hand out free tickets, a commemorative photograph of the train and a free, albeit miniature, bottle of whisky for every passenger! After 40 minutes we arrived at Helensburgh where the River Clyde widens into the Firth. Here there were more dignitaries, TV cameras and free coffee. After a stroll round the town I returned to Glasgow and finally reached Borders. There was of course time to visit the wonderful Horseshoe Bar where a pint costs less than £2 and pie and beans costs 80p. An excellent day out.

Sunday 29 December 2002

Labour not so dominant

I was intrigued to read that Labour now has majority control of only 9 out of 32 local councils in Scotland.

And, in by-elections since 1999:

Tories have been the big winners, gaining eight seats and losing none.
That is a surprise.

A captain speaks

Growing up in Scotland rarely leads to an interest in cricket but the headline in the Sunday Telegraph demanded my attention. The captain of the England team has pronounced:
Going to Zimbabwe is a moral issue, and a very important one, and it is not up to cricketers but to government politicians to make the decision.
In these circumstances it is, yes, faintly ridiculous to suppose that the England captain and management have the time to sit down, watch CNN and BBC World, and come to the informed moral judgement which it is necessary to make about going to Zimbabwe.

In my opinion, therefore, the Government should set up a sporting body of some sort - above the ECB and the ICC - to make this moral decision about Zimbabwe on our behalf, and we will then happily abide by it.

Now I recognise that there are arguments in favour of trading with and visiting nasty regimes on the grounds that such contact may bring about liberalisation. It is also arguable that contacts may reinforce criminal governments. What is not legitimate is to say that such decisions, which are indeed important ones, should be left to politicians because sportsmen "haven't got the time" to think for themselves. Hopefully they never have the time to vote.

The fishing crisis

In a letter to the Sunday Herald, Martin Morrison writes:
The Scottish fishing industry is as good an example as any of the damage that is caused by unfettered free enterprise
But the fishing industry has little to do with "free enterprise". Any over-fishing in the North Sea is the result of a lack of property rights, without which there can be no free enterprise. The Icelandic Government has gone some way to resolving the problem in its waters.

Ian Bell's article on fishing also contains a dig at capitalism:

As the magi of the free market right continue to tell us that Scotland's long industrial decline has everything to do with red tape and nothing to do with woeful leadership, more communities will be picked off.
Red tape is certainly a major problem, even if not acknowledged by Mr Bell, but the absence of property rights is just as important.

Friday 27 December 2002

Boring announcement

I see that my local MP has been voted most boring politician in Britain. If he were to become so boring as to do absolutely nothing at all, I might be tempted to vote for him.

Property rights under attack

Stirling Council is planning to compulsorily purchase property in the city and local businesses are up in arms:
Local business owners are fuming after the council issued compulsory purchase and demolition orders on their premises. They say the plans are the latest in a string of such schemes which are harmful to private enterprise, threatening serious damage to, and even the destruction of, local business.
What is encouraging is that the objectors are using correct arguments:
According to documents seen by The Scotsman, the objections cite grounds including "the restriction of market forces, detrimental to indigenous and incoming businesses". They also claim the council has made "little or no effort" to consult local landowners.
It is important to attack Labour on the basis of "restriction of market forces" as this undercuts their ludicrous attempts to appear to be "pro-business".

The state is not your friend.

Thursday 26 December 2002

Fishermen's friends?

It's now just over 4 months until the Scottish parliamentary election. Writing about the Tories, the Edinburgh Evening News states:
Although the Tory leader is now widely seen as damaged goods - lacking in charisma, confused over tax policy and lacklustre in his speeches - party managers in Scotland say a recent visit to the north-east, where he met fishermen ahead of the Brussels decision to cut quotas, was a huge success, with IDS getting across the message that the Tories were the fishermen’s friends.
Indeed so. The Tories "were the fishermen's friends" - until Ted Heath signed up to the European Common Fishing Policy in the 1970s.

The book challenge

Over on Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait writes:
Every so often I rearrange my books to make them take up less space in my home than they actually do take up.
Whenever I have undertaken this task, the books take up more space in my home than they actually do!

I decided to make a list of the current in-pile, which has grown considerably since 25th December:

(1) Black Sea by Neal Ascherson
(2) Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland also by Neal Ascherson
(3) The Scottish Empire by Michael Fry
(4) The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots' Invention of the Modern World by Arthur Herman
(5) Economic Thought Before Adam Smith (volume 2) by Murray Rothbard
(6) The Rise and Decline of the State by Martin Van Creveld
(7) Anatomy of a New Scotland by Gerry Hassan & Chris Warhurst
(8) The American Civil War: The War in the East 1863-1865 by Robert Krick
(9) Scotland: a Short History by Christopher Harvie
(10) Churchill by Roy Jenkins
(11) The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede
(12) Antony Fisher: Champion of Liberty by Gerald Frost
(13) Sparrowhawk by Edward Cline
(14) The Virtue of Prosperity by Dinesh D'Souza
(15) Circles Under the Clyde: A History of the Glasgow Underground by John Wright & Ian Maclean
(16) No Frills: The Truth Behind the Low-Cost Revolution in the Skies by Simon Calder

The challenge is: how does a blogger with broadband ever reduce the in-pile?

Wednesday 25 December 2002


Merry Christmas to everyone across the world - the last 100 readers came from 15 time zones.

Tuesday 24 December 2002

UK centralisation

A few weeks ago I wrote about the harm done by centralisation in the UK. Today I received the January journal of a UK-wide professional body. 45 out of 47 vacancies advertised are in the southeast of England. As I said earlier, Britain's chaotic transport system and distorted housing markets can't be resolved until the government-created centralisation (actually, "southeasternisation") is recognised and ended.

Sunday 22 December 2002

No freedom, no whisky

We like to make our weekly supermarket visit early on Sunday morning when the store is very quiet. At 7 this morning it was busier than usual with Christmas a few days away. Everything went fine until the checkout lady attempted to ring up a packet of whisky-filled chocolates. The scanning device rejected them because it is illegal to sell alcohol in Scotland before 12.30pm on a Sunday! What was even more galling was that a packet of tequila-filled chocolates was accepted. Why can't I purchase good, healthy food whenever I want?

Saturday 21 December 2002


The Daily Mail reports today that Gordon Brown has cost us £540 million by selling Bank of England gold reserves over the last 3 years. That's some half-million a day. As scandals involving Fife politicians go, this makes poor Henry McLeish a mere amateur.


Henry McLeish was forced out as First Minister of the Scottish parliament a year ago. As a former Westminster MP he was entitled to a £30,000 pay-off from that institution, having not sought re-election in 2001. When he was still First Minister he told MSPs that he would not accept the £30,000. It now turns out that he has taken the cash. So what's his excuse?
He added: "I responded (to MSPs) in my capacity as First Minister and at that time I had no intention to claim the payments available to me on ceasing to be an MP.

"I did not anticipate the situation that I might cease to be First Minister soon afterwards.

"In light of the change in my circumstances, I reviewed these matters and consequently addressed the issue of my entitlement on ceasing to be an MP."

So he gained political credit for announcing that he would forgo the payment only to take it when his "circumstances" had changed. And some people still trust these guys.

Friday 20 December 2002

Business am

It now seems that the plan to keep the paper going as a weekly has failed.

Note this:

Angus MacDonald, chief executive of the publisher of Financial News, last night blamed "Euro bureaucracy" for the deal falling through.

He said: "We wanted to buy the trade and assets of the company, but European legislation requires that any buyer of a company is obliged to keep on all staff.

"It looked like we were going to be forced to take on three times the number of staff that were needed for a weekly title."

As our friends over on Samizdata are always telling us: "the state is not your friend".

Where our taxes go

There was an extraordinary series of articles in yesterday's Scotsman about Helen Liddell, the Secretary of State for Scotland. This woman costs us a lot of money. What exactly is she for?
She draws the same £125,000-a-year salary as Gordon Brown, the Chancellor. But what does she do?

The Scottish Executive has taken over the Scotland Office’s real powers. The result is a shell, and three very important constitutional questions: what does it do? Will it be abolished? And what would replace it?

Ms Liddell (known in Scotland as "Stalin's Granny") issued a series of complaints about the Scotsman newspaper, including objections to letters to the editor!

Since the establishment of the Scottish parliament there is no real role for the Scottish Secretary It is ludicrous for Ms Liddell (earning the same as the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to waste her time and our money spinning against a newspaper. She should be fired and her job abolished.

Thursday 19 December 2002

Being economical with the truth

My goodness. It seems as if Iain Duncan Smith's CV may not be totally accurate. Of course, everything New Labour tells us is true. After all, they promised to remove sleaze from government.

See you Jimmy

It is claimed that the Glasgow accent is spreading to Edinburgh:
In his new book, The English Language In Scotland: An Introduction To Scots, Professor Jones notes "the introduction of Glaswegian pronunciations and other linguistic features across the central belt" and "a levelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh pronunciations"
According to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh:
In a "working class west Edinburgh accent", Eric Milligan, lord provost of Edinburgh, said people from the city would be very surprised to hear they sounded Glaswegian because "it's very different through here"
I don't normally agree with him but I think the LP is correct although he and I may not meet enough of the younger generation that is supposedly being colonised by the western linguistic aggressors.

Wednesday 18 December 2002

An outrage against civilisation

German scientists have produced instant whisky:
Professor Eckhard Weidner of Bochum University has developed instant "powdered whisky" which he claims will soon join hot chocolate and coffee on supermarket shelves.
An editorial in The Scotsman is suitably angry:
Enough is enough. To reduce whisky to the alcoholic equivalent of dried mashed potato simply cannot be contemplated. We say: desist at once.
Quite right. Instant whisky indeed. Now if the Germans could produce instant freedom....

Tuesday 17 December 2002

An outbreak of common sense - for the time being

Edinburgh City Council has "suspended" the ban on parents photographing school nativity plays. Unsurprisingly, the original decision was met with outrage and derision. Where would it have ended? No photography in council owned parks? Blacking out the windows of buses taking children to school? Indeed, why not ban photography in any street owned by the city in case a child was present? There would surely be a tourist boom of people coming to look at the mad council officials although a reactionary minority might wonder why they weren't allowed to take photos of the castle.

The "Pensions Iniquity"

There was a very good article in yesterday's Glasgow Herald about the pension crisis. Alex Bell contrasts the pension rights of those in the state sector with people working for private companies:
While people in the private sector face fewer rest years and more working ones, the public sector still enjoy the old set-up. In return for as little as 30 years of labour, they can expect a guaranteed pension of as much as two-thirds of their final salary.
As Bell says:
It's a recipe for deep resentment and is likely to feature more and more as people realise the apparent iniquity of the situation.
But Bell goes on to write:
At the moment we accept this odd arrangement because it's a neat fix to a problem. By offering good pensions to public workers, the state can get away with low pay levels.
Many public sector wages are set nationally as we have seen in the firefighters' dispute, which is being negotiated at a UK level although the fire service is a devolved matter as far as Scotland is concerned. Private sector wages are largely set according to local conditions with much higher earnings in the Southeast than further north. This results in private sector jobs being more attractive than public ones in the London area but here in Scotland government jobs often outpay what private companies can afford. This can be seen in the job adverts in any Scottish paper. Consequently, many of the brightest people up here go into government jobs that give better pay and pensions than the private sector. This in turn contributes to lower economic growth in Scotland. We should end national (UK) pay negotiations in the state sector. In the longer term most of these jobs should be abolished or privatised.

Monday 16 December 2002

"US materialism"

Nigel Bruce's letter takes John Webb to task for his defence of the US Constitution:
Note the absence of any mention of social responsibility.

Such individualistic materialism is unlikely to hold much appeal for those of us who, whether Christian, Muslim, or humanist, recognise an obligation, under the Golden Rule, to treat others as we would want them to treat us.

But the whole point of individualist libertarianism is that people respect the rights of others, neither initiating force nor being the victims of force initiated by others. There is no conflict with the "Golden Rule". The problem in the US is that the Supreme Court has not upheld the Constitution.

Bad news

It is very sad to read that Business AM is to close in its present form and become a weekly paper. They launched two years ago just as the economy began to turn down. I always enjoyed reading this award-winning newspaper and hope that as many of the staff as possible are kept on for the new weekly version.

Sunday 15 December 2002

Politicophiliac alert

Here's another reason why we need to privatise our schools:
PARENTS are effectively being banned from videoing and photographing school nativity plays, pantomimes and carol concerts as part of an anti-paedophile crackdown.


Gerald Warner, Scotland's Mark Steyn, is on top form today:
The Rasputinesque atmosphere of the court of King Tony is beyond parody. Who is his consort’s best friend and adviser? A former topless model and Men Only cover-girl, once a member of the Exegesis cult, who, in partnership with her mother Sylvia, now deals in crystal-clutching, mud-bathing and rebirthing. It is not the social milieu that frequented Downing Street in the days of Clementine Churchill and Lady Dorothy Macmillan.
and more, more and more:
The farce we have been living through, over the past two weeks, is that Monty Pythonesque moment of history - the Dead Project Sketch. In the perspective of historians, it will be seen as New Labour’s ERM débâcle. Britain has awakened from the trance into which it fell on May 1, 1997 and has done so in a bad temper. At last, the grotesquerie of a Britain ruled by Alf Garnett’s son-in-law’s son-in-law has dawned on the public.
Regime change, anyone?

Topical question...

... asked by Peter Oborne in The Business:
Q. What is the difference between Tony Blair and Peter Foster?
A. Peter Foster has got convictions.

Service with a smile...

...from our friends at the Inland Revenue:
"The Inland Revenue deals with the widest customer base in the UK. This makes us to all intends and purposes the UK’s number-one service brand."
Can I take my business elsewhere?

Friday 13 December 2002

Unintended consequences

Guidelines are being issued to universities to try and reduce student suicides:
A recent study of 400 first-year undergraduates found that moving away from home, meeting new people and the pressure to perform well in exams were all causes of psychological problems affecting one in five students.
I wonder if part of the problem is the government's policy of encouraging university education for more and more youngsters many of whom should be pursuing other training.

Thursday 12 December 2002

Job dispersal

It certainly seems that Edinburgh has more than its fair share of government jobs and that some should be dispersed to other parts of the country.

Of course if we lived in a free society many of these activities would not exist at all and those that did would have no special reason to locate near politicians.

Tony and Cherie

The bottle of champagne moves closer to the fridge.

Wednesday 11 December 2002

How many?

Over on the Holy Blog, Roland Watson points out that there have been eight transport ministers in the last seven years. I went through to Glasgow by train yesterday afternoon. I suppose I should be grateful that there was a train to bring me back.

Wake me up

Perhaps I'm having a very long dream or somehow got stuck in a parallel universe. I mean this sort of thing can't really be happening, can it?
Police have told a Gloucester man he risks breaking the law if he forces his way into a vehicle which has been parked in his drive, blocking his own car in a garage.
Note this:
But neither the police nor Gloucester City Council will help because the T-reg Toyota Picnic is not causing a public obstruction.
Isn't Mr Windo a member of the public? Don't the "public" pay the wages of the police and of Gloucester City Council? Who will put a stop to this nonsense?

The Edinburgh fire

It now seems that Saturday night's fire in the Old Town was caused by a faulty fuse box and not arson as originally suggested. It could have been so much worse:
If the fire on Saturday night had started a few hours later when the pubs and nightclubs in the area would have been full to overflowing, there could have been many deaths and injuries.

And without the skill, dedication and equipment of the firefighters who tackled the blaze, the fire could also easily have spread even more quickly than it did. Flames leaping across the narrow streets and closes of the Old Town could have reached the High Street and ripped up the Royal Mile.

The fire services certainly did a good job but I didn't like the tone of this letter from Robin Mainstone:
What a shame for the Fire Brigades Union that it cancelled its strike action prior to last weekend’s fire in the Old Town. This would have been the ideal opportunity to scotch the myth that the army can cope when the professionals are not there.
On the TV news someone said that the firefighters would not have attended the fire had they still been on strike as there was no apparent threat to life. I trust that would not have been the case. The firefighters are a public-sector monopoly and have good work conditions and an excellent pension scheme. Their employment contracts should preclude the right to strike.

Tuesday 10 December 2002

Chilling the "bubbly"

Some time ago I was given a bottle of champagne. My wife only drinks on special occasions and a whole bottle is too much for this blogger to consume in one go. We decided to save if for the day of rejoicing that will be held when Tony Blair is dragged screaming from Downing Street. The bottle is not yet in the fridge but has been brought out of storage ready for a quick chilling when the wonderful day dawns. Recent events suggest that this may be sooner than I had thought.

The police "service"

Today's Daily Mail tells us that there are 15,324 serving police officers in Scotland. That seems quite a lot but on a typical day 4,904 of them are working in "administration and specialist departments" and 6,957 are "either on holiday, off sick, in court or carrying out paperwork". Of the remaining 3,463, a mere 4%, that is 138 officers, are on foot patrol in the whole country at any time, with a further 588 driving around in their cars. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not quite what the public expects.

Unsurprisingly, the Mail's editorial is critical but it doesn't go far enough. Some libertarians believe that there is a proper role for a limited, or "nightwatchman" state that provides necessary protective services such as the police and the military. The current policing arrangements give credence to those who doubt that any politically provided services are viable. Certainly, these figures show that there is absolutely no justification for the government's policy of "victim disarmament" that makes it illegal for us to defend ourselves.

Monday 9 December 2002

The travels of "Boozhound"

This guy makes you proud to be Scottish (message number1).


It's sad to see one of the world's best known airlines get into trouble. If you want to know why it's happened, have a look at this.

Sunday 8 December 2002


On Wednesday, I wrote about the response of the police to government proposals to deal with sectarianism in Scotland. Now, the well-known TV presenter, Kirsty Wark has joined in the debate:
At an awards ceremony for aspiring headteachers in Glasgow yesterday attended by Cathy Jamieson, the Scottish education minister, Wark spoke of her unease with a system which meant that as a child in Ayrshire she and her best friend had to go to different schools simply because of religion.

In many parts of Scotland, there are two separate systems of state-funded schooling: one "non-denominational" (essentially Protestant), and one Catholic. I fully agree with the many critics who think that this division is responsible for a great deal of the tension between the Protestant and Catholic communities particularly in the greater Glasgow area where the educational divide is strongest. Support for separatist schooling is strongest in the Catholic community that felt, with some justification, that it suffered discrimination in the early part of the 20th century. Now, Catholics are at the heart of the Scottish establishment, especially in the Labour party and that explains the government's reluctance to grasp the nettle and bring together the separate schools. Of course, in a free society the schools would be totally private and free to offer any type of education, religious or otherwise but I suspect that most schools would be non-denominational and that sectarianism would eventually die a welcome death.

Proposals to ban the flying of "sectarian" flags (including the Union Jack!) at football matches are unworkable, as the fans of Rangers and Celtic make clear:

One of his punters, a guy called Willy who's itching to get into the stands, says: 'You can't ban the Union Jack --- that's our flag. That's totally out of f***ing order banning the flag of Britain.'

He points to the Union flag fluttering over Ibrox, asking: 'Will they pull that down too? I tell you what those arseholes over in Holyrood should do -- they should stop segregated schools, that's where sectarianism begins. Just leave people's flags alone. I mean, what f***ing country are we living in?

Are the "a.......s over in Holyrood" listening?

Friday 6 December 2002

The Auld Alliance

When I visited Ryrie's Bar yesterday evening, two young Frenchmen, probably from the nearby boulangerie, came in and sat at the next table. After a while, one went to the bar for a refill carrying with him a copy of Le Monde. At the same time, the other went to the cigarette machine taking with him his Edinburgh Evening News. Left on the table were a wallet, a bunch of keys and two mobile phones. It's good to see that the younger generation values the printed word. Even if they're French.

Property investment

What a wonderful row has broken out over Cherie Blair's purchase of property for the use of her son. Have a look at this cartoon.

Thursday 5 December 2002

Booms and busts

On Tuesday, I wrote about a new course at Edinburgh Business School that will deal with stock market bubbles. Patrick Crozier commented that inflation was low (or zero) in the UK and Roland Watson wrote that extra money had been created in the UK but could go into stock market and housing and not necessarily into consumption of consumer goods. I think that is correct.

According to the Bank of England's website, the UK money supply increased every year between 1970 and 1990 by percentages in double figures. The rate of increase slowed down a bit in the early 1990s but increased again to 9.9% in both 1995 and 1996 and then 11.9% in 1997. The latest estimates show money supply increasing at an annual rate of a bit over 8%. So why is "inflation" so low in the UK?

I think that two separate forces are operating. Since 1989, the former communist countries have entered the world trading system offering considerably lower costs. We see factories moving from high-cost Western Europe and North America to Eastern Europe and especially China. This is keeping the cost of consumer goods steady along with improving quality. Hence the very low inflation figures in the UK. So where is the extra money going? The inflation figures in the UK don't include house price increases! In Business AM yesterday, it was reported that the average British worker "now earns more from his property than his job" with the typical house increasing in value by £1,602 per month. The extra money is going into the housing market and had also been going into the stock market.

The Austrians say that:

Even more damaging (than the price rises) are the business cycles of booms and busts that monetary inflation causes. In broad outline, when government inflates, it lowers the interest rate below the proper market level, which depends on saving. The artificially low interest rate misleads businesses into making uneconomic investments and creates an inflationary boom. When the credit expansion slows or stops, investment errors are revealed and bankruptcies and unemployment result. Central banks like the Federal Reserve will inevitably create the business cycle.
The credit expansion has slowed to some extent and we have seen that: "investment errors are revealed and bankruptcies and unemployment result". Of course the response of the Fed and the Bank of England is to lower interest rates so as to counteract what the Austrians see as the inevitable result of the prior monetary expansion. If the Austrians are correct, and I think that they are, we shall see more stock market turmoil ahead. I am but an amateur "Austrian" but last year I switched most of my pension fund out of a "with profits" investment into a cash fund returning a modest 4%. By doing so, I locked into the accrued bonuses earned to date and missed out on this year's savage cuts.

Words of wisdom

A very wise last will and testament from a sadly departed gentleman.

(Thanks to Boris Kupershmidt for passing this on.)

Wednesday 4 December 2002

Paying up yet again?

The authorities should protect anyone living here from violent attacks but I find it disturbing to read that we taxpayers may be facing yet another bill:
THE Home Office could face a multi-million-pound compensation bill after an asylum-seeker launched a landmark court case, claiming a decision to force him to stay in Glasgow breached his human rights.
This family is being allowed to live in Britain at taxpayers' expense. There are plenty of poor British citizens who would like to move to parts of the country where crime levels are perceived to be lower. I don't think there's much chance of any of them winning a "multi-million-pound compensation" should they fail to get the government to pay for a move.

The police speak out

English libertarians have quite rightly condemned the introduction of the concept of "hate crimes". The situation in Scotland is somewhat different as there are very few people of non-European ethnicity other than in certain parts of Glasgow (see next story). Up here, the perceived problem is "sectarianism" and politicians are calling for legislation.

The police are not convinced:

SENIOR police officers have warned that the Scottish Executive’s flagship plans to crack down on sectarian hatred are unworkable - less than 24 hours after Jim Wallace, the justice minister, unveiled his detailed proposals.
Here, "sectarianism" refers to Protestant and Catholic rivalry that is connected to the situation in Northern Ireland and which often spills over at and after football games.


This initiative is expected to be followed by wider powers curbing the use of paramilitary memorabilia such as sectarian souvenirs, scarves, banners and flags which can contain IRA or UDA slogans.
It's interesting that senior police officers are willing to say that the new proposals are "unworkable". Let's hope that they will speak out against "hate crime" legislation.

Ex-con tells the truth

The Herald reports that:
JIMMY Boyle, the former Gorbals gangster, who became a celebrated sculptor and writer while serving a life-sentence in Barlinnie jail in Glasgow, yesterday dismissed the Britart movement as "fraudulent - like the emperor's new clothes".
Sounds about right to me.

Tuesday 3 December 2002

How to come top of the class

A new course is to be taught at Edinburgh Business School and it will examine the causes of stock market bubbles and what lessons can be learned. The Scotsman article says:
The events of the past two years, says Napier (the project consultant), suggest that the accumulation of knowledge in the sciences may be cumulative "but in finance it remains cyclical".

Despite the explosion in financial analysis over the past 40 years and the emergence and development of portfolio theory, stock market manias and crashes seem to be as evident as ever.

Of course they are. These "manias and crashes" are the result of decades of government-created fiat monetary systems throughout the world. I would recommend that students (and lecturers) on the course consult the works of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard in which all will be revealed.

Monday 2 December 2002

Little boy lost

Five-year-old Shabaaz Iqbal became separated from his family and wandered onto a train at Glasgow Central from where he travelled 230 miles to Cheshire before being discovered. Here's what the police had to say:
Police Superintendent Carolyn Harper, who led the search for Shabaaz, admitted people were wary of approaching children for "fear of how that may be construed". But she urged the public to contact the police if they ever saw a child in unusual circumstances and advised parents and their children to agree a plan of action in case they were ever separated.
The Herald editorial says:
It is a depressing sign of our times that people are afraid to approach a child in need for fear of their motives being misconstrued. Had it been a lost dog in Glasgow city centre, it would have been fussed over and taken to the police within the hour. Yet a small child on his own was left to fend for himself. To some extent, the public reaction is understandable. Such is the revulsion towards adults who prey on children that many people, men in particular, are reluctant to intervene. Twenty years ago they would have done so without a second thought. Not now.

Perhaps society requires a new code of conduct where lost children are concerned, one which recognises that while youngsters should not be encouraged to speak to strangers, they ought to know when and how to seek help. Basic tactics, such as teaching them their address, can also prove invaluable. Adults, for their part, should be encouraged to intervene, appropriately, if they suspect a child is in danger. If they do not wish to approach the child in person, they can call the police or alert someone else in authority. The risk of embarrassment from reading the situation wrongly is a small price to pay for saving a child from possible harm.

So adults should "be encouraged to intervene, appropriately". Any sensible adult would be very wary of doing that these days. It seems to me that the anti-paedophile witch-hunt carried out by certain social workers is coming home to roost.

The election looms...

... and the Labour lead drops:
With Labour on 35% in the constituencies and the SNP now close behind on 32%, the prospect arises of Labour's numbers in the next parliament being cut to 51, from the present 55.
The peculiarities of the proportional representational system mean that a Labour/Illiberal Democrat coalition is still the most likely outcome, but a further Labour slippage could produce a dramatic result.

No matter whom you vote for, the government gets in!

A row has broken out following the leaking of the Scottish Cabinet's plans for legislation after next May's election:
Opposition leaders said it revealed an "arrogant assumption" that the Labour-Lib Dem coalition would continue in government.
It may seem to be prudent for all contenders, including the present government, to make plans for life after the election but, as the quote indicates, we have a coalition government:
Opposition parties said these detailed plans undermined the argument that Labour and the Lib Dems will fight the coming election as entirely separate parties
If Labour and the Illiberal Democrats have already agreed to form another coalition, their electoral expense limit should reflect that fact and the monitoring authorities should treat them as one party.

BBC NEWS | Technology | University wins rainmaking grant

Oh no!

Just what Scotland doesn't need: a rainmaking machine. It's supposedly for use in drier climes:

The rainmaker is described as looking like a giant egg-beater and would be placed on catamarans off the coast of desert land.
Well, maybe that's OK but please don't test it here.

Saturday 30 November 2002

Socialism rebutted

Regular Scotsman correspondents, John Webb and Bruce Crichton, again demolish the socialists' arguments.

Nuts about Brazil...

... is a most apposite title for this article. Chrissy Iley writes about visiting Brazil:
It’s the perfect moment for it. The place is still exotic without being alienating or frightening and, with a new government led by Lula da Silva, it’s poised on the brink of a new era - it’s becoming more international and cosmopolitan. Brazil will soon be keeping up the same beat as the rest of the world. So get there now.
"Exotic without being alienating or frightening" and "poised on the brink of a new era", she thinks. Well, here's what President-elect da Silva said:
In order to achieve yesterday’s result, it was of fundamental importance that the Workers’ Party, a party of the left, should have understood the need of allying itself with other political parties. The PL (Liberal Party), the PcdoB (Communist Party of Brazil), the PMN (National Mobilization Party) and the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party) lent their inestimable support in the first ballot. They were joined in the second ballot by the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party), the PPS (Popular Socialist Party), the PDT (Democratic Labour Party), the PV (Green Party), the PTB (Brazilian Labour Party), the PHS (Humanist Solidarity Party), the PSDC (Christian Social Democracy Party), and the PGT (General Workers’ Party).
Workers, communists, "mobilizers", more communists, socialists, more socialists, labourites, greens, more labourites, humanists, social democrats and more workers! And I'd bet that the "liberals" are nothing of the sort. What a tragedy for Brazil - "keeping up the same beat" as all too much of the rest of the world.

Friday 29 November 2002

Let's celebrate

Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day. The Scotsman diary tells us that:
ANYONE in doubt as to how to celebrate St Andrew’s Day tomorrow should take their lead from La Bamba Mexican restaurant in Aberdeen, which is planning to substitute beef with red-hot chilli. Haggis, neeps and tatties are being jettisoned to create such culinary delights as Blaw Yer Mooth Off Burritos, Nae mild Nachos, Tartan Army Tortillas, and Mary Quesidillas of Scots. "Our chilli haggis dishes will add spice to the St Andrew’s Day fiesta," explains La Bamba’s managing director, Stephen Dillon.
Sounds like a hot time in auld Aberdeen tomorrow. It's too far for a night out so I'll stick to something more traditionally Scottish. Something more in line with the name of this website is quite capable of "blawing yer mooth off".

Scottish Politician of the Year...

...is Malcolm Chisholm, the Health Minister. Like Jamieson, Chisholm is another unreconstructed left-winger but I have to confess that he was a more impressive speaker than the other ministers I heard during my visit to the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

Should she resign?

Education Minister Cathie Jamieson doesn't seem to support her own government's policy:
The left-of-centre Labour MSP refrained from endorsing publicly the Scottish Executive's collectively-agreed description of the fire strike as "unacceptable"
In yesterday's Scotsman, Peter MacMahon wrote:
On Tuesday evening and again yesterday morning, Cathy Jamieson, his minister for education and party deputy, was fielded by the Executive to answer questions in the wake of Dr Simpson’s resignation. Asked if she agreed with the First Minister’s assertion that the firefighters’ strike was "unacceptable", Ms Jamieson resolutely refused to do so.

It is clear from her performance that Ms Jamieson, who has an impeccable left-wing pedigree within the Labour Party, thinks no such thing. As a veteran of the campaign to retain Labour’s Clause Four, which committed the party to sub-Marxist nationalisation, and a long-standing activist within the anti-Blairite Grassroots Alliance, Ms Jamieson was only being true to her beliefs. It very likely that she believes in giving the firefighters a 40 per cent pay rise.

I don't always agree with Peter MacMahon ( a former Labour spin doctor), but here he is absolutely correct:
She is a minister in the Scottish government that is at one with its UK counterpart in condemning the strike; is dealing with the consequences of providing fire cover using Green Goddesses and troops; and is determined there should be no pay rise above 4 per cent without significant changes in working practices. By refusing to condemn the strike, Ms Jamieson is therefore in a position that makes it difficult for her to remain a minister. Plainly, she does not fully support Executive policy. By refusing to condemn the strike, Ms Jamieson is therefore in a position that makes it difficult for her to remain a minister. Plainly, she does not fully support Executive policy.
Jack McConnell should sack her. The trouble is that he is running out of untarnished backbenchers to promote.

Thursday 28 November 2002

A day out

I visited the Scottish Parliament for the first time this afternoon. On arrival, I noticed that all of the members' seats were occupied by a group of schoolchildren and I commented to the security guy that the MSPs were getting younger. He replied that it was because of "all the pills they had been taking"! He also agreed that the schoolchildren were probably more sensible than the politicians. Sadly, the children moved to the visitors' gallery and the "real" legislators arrived.

First Minister's question time was fun. Jack McConnell looked smaller than I had imagined and seemed nervous when challenged about the NHS. The Presiding Officer (speaker), Sir David Steel, told the Scottish Nationalists that they were making too much noise when McConnell was speaking but I heard them afterwards saying that Labour do the same when the SNP have the floor.

The Scottish Parliament has a semi-circular seating arrangement rather than the supposedly more confrontational Westminster face-to-face layout. The inter-party shouting and rivalry seemed just the same to me. I shall have to visit the tax-consumers more often.

Wednesday 27 November 2002

No more "productivity" please.

The letter from John Stewart calls for fewer MSPs. Fair enough. But I don't like his idea of increasing MSPs' "working" hours. It's bad enough having to pay politicians' salaries without encouraging them to be more "productive". Pay them if we must, but no more legislation please.

Tuesday 26 November 2002

Here today, gone tomorrow?

The self-deposed minister, Dr Simpson, was regularly to be seen on televised broadcasts of the Scottish Parliament. He was always there smiling immediately behind and to the left of Jack McConnell at First Minister's question time. I expect that NuLab will spin him off-screen by McConnell's next presentation on Thursday.

Wind farms

There is an ongoing debate in Scotland about whether wind farms discourage tourists from visiting the countryside.

But there is controversy:

A "flawed" survey of 180 tourists by VisitScotland suggests that half of Scotland's visitors think wind farms would be a blot on the landscape, while a quarter of those questioned said they would avoid areas where wind farms were built.

Chris Tomlinson, BWEA head of planning, said: "Unfortunately, this study is flawed given that the methodology has been tailored towards achieving a negative response to wind farms. Only 180 people were interviewed and the sample was self-selected.

I am a keen landscape photographer (a good site here) and I must say that the wind farms that I have seen make an interesting addition to the scenery. Of course, they wouldn't be necessary if the greens weren't so anti-nuclear.

The election looms

The general election for the Scottish parliament is just five months away. Today, a Labour minister has been forced out following his remarks about the firefighters' strike. The Edinburgh Evening News makes a good point:
With the Confederation of British Industry this week making clear that business’ honey-moon with Mr Blair and his party is over, the future could scarcely be bleaker.

Except that in Scotland it is. If the strike drags on into the new year, Labour faces a disaster in May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

I heard the the SNP leader on the radio a few minutes ago. He sounded very cheerful.

Minister resigns

I have just heard that Dr Richard Simpson, Scotland's Deputy Justice Minister, has resigned. Dr Simpson, who was in charge of Scotland's fire service, had got himself into trouble over remarks he allegedly made about striking firefighters:
The minister responsible for the fire service in Scotland has resigned after claims he described striking firefighters as "fascist bastards".
Note that:
It was reported that he said: "We must not give into the bastards. These people aren't socialists, they're protectionists, they're fascists - the kind of people who supported Mussolini."
It is sad to think that a man with a doctorate fails to realise that fascists are socialists and that socialists are protectionists.

I suspect that Dr Simpson will be merely the first political victim of the firefighters' strike.

Monday 25 November 2002

Bonjour. Je suis le professeur.

This school has what seems to be an excellent idea:
At Walker Road, pupils don't have 'French lessons'. Instead, French-born teachers Sylvie Grigas and Philippe Couineaux teach the normal curriculum entirely in French.
Of course the children may pay more attention to glamorous French teachers than to local ones.

Sunday 24 November 2002

A Scottish welcome

Contrary to what some may think, English people generally settle well in Scotland:
'The idea that there are little groups of English people being persecuted in Scotland doesn't seem to hold at all. '
It seems as though English people in Scotland see problems in the same places as do Scots:
English composer Dave Heath moved to Scotland with his partner, Angela Tunstall, in 1993 to work with the BT Scottish Ensemble. They eventually settled in Edinburgh with their children in 1997. Any anti-English sentiment Heath has experienced has tended to be within the press -- and primarily related to football
I remember many, many people up here saying during the World Cup that they had no problem with the English team or the English fans but couldn't stand the English media.

Saturday 23 November 2002

"It's Not For Girls"...

... it says on the Yorkie Bar that my wife bought for me today. Wrapped in blue, it carries a drawing of a woman with a red diagonal line over her and the words "Not Available In Pink" on the reverse. Surely an example of "hate speech"? Shouldn't the Chocolate Equality Commission be on the case? Well, this site examines the issues. Some of the great British public remain relaxed:
The advert for Yorkie chocolate is in no way offensive to women, most chocolate products are aimed at women and Yorkie is more likely to be bought by men and so is aimed at them - gently poking in the process and suggesting that women to FIND THE PRODUCT DESIRABLE but humourously challenging them to buy it - that is A JOKE.

Friday 22 November 2002

Why do the Scots get upset?

In Business AM today it was reported that Magnus Linklater, a Times columnist and former Scotsman editor, gave a talk in Glasgow last night. He told his audience about a Times editorial conference. Apparently, one of the editorial hotshots could name the entire Israeli cabinet but didn't know who was the First Minister of Scotland. The US equivalent would be a Washington Post editor being similarly informed about Israel but not knowing that Jeb Bush was governor of Florida.

The Scottish Nationalists don't need to try. The English media does the job for them.


You can now comment on Freedom and Whisky postings.

Telling it like it is

The pupils of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling asked members of the Scottish Parliament to use more Scots words. Yesterday, MSPs agreed to help. The winner in meeting the challenge is clear:
Fergus Ewing (SNP) then rose to his feet to announce: "The word I choose to highlight is ‘bluffelheid’."
And would this wonderful word be useful for politicians? A "bluffelheid", Mr Ewing told us, is:
defined as "a person who has a very large head but a very small brain".
The presumption of innocence is being whittled away by our government. I suggest that all politicians must be assumed to be "bluffelheids" until they can prove to the contrary.

Thursday 21 November 2002

Does the South-east sudsidise the rest of the UK?

Well, Mike Denham writing in the Spectator thinks so:
Economically, this area is ahead of every other region. It has 35 per cent of the country’s population, but produces 42 per cent of its output. Average productivity per head is a whopping 35 per cent higher than elsewhere. If the rest of the country could match this, Britain would be the most productive of all the major European economies.
I'm not sure it's as simple as that. The UK is probably the most centralised of all modern countries. Even after devolution, 87% of our taxes are levied at the national level. In the US it's 18%. In the rest of Europe taxes are levied roughly half by the national governments and half locally. Where the taxes are collected goes economic and political power. I remember reading some years ago that Washington DC had the highest per-capita wages in the US and that most of them were dependent in some way on the federal government. That's in a country levying a mere 18% of taxation at the centre.

A very large part of London's economy is there precisely because it is the capital city of a country whose government spends some 40% of our GDP and whose London-resident ministers channel almost all of that expenditure through the London-based civil service. This in turn means that London hosts the national press (English, not British actually), the BBC, commercial TV, media-associated industries like advertising and PR, the political parties, almost all lobbyists, charities, trades unions and professional organisations. This centralisation of decision makers and influencers in turn makes London the natural location for the head offices of companies whose operations are spread throughout Britain. All of this is why the South-east dominates our economy and why it is impossible to solve the imbalances in housing and transport.

If we want to see a more economically balanced Britain we can either reduce government expenditure to, say, 10% of GDP, or we can spread government more evenly throughout the country. I support the first option. I suspect that neither will be implemented.

Wednesday 20 November 2002

Fiscal Independence

This topic just won't go away:
Professor Donald MacRae, chief economist of Lloyds TSB Scotland, told an audience at the University of Abertay Dundee, that reserved fiscal powers are limiting the potential of Scotland’s economy, and that the country is falling well behind its competitors in terms of business growth
Members of the Scottish Parliament can't be expected to exercise proper responsibility unless they raise their own revenue:
Fiscal devolution brings fiscal responsibility and accountability - tax and spend becomes truly tax and spend, not just spend.

I was rather surprised to see that Scotsman columnist Bill Jamieson sees merit in fiscal devolution:

MacRae is at pains not to do down the Scottish economy as a hopeless and irredeemable failure. But he rightly identifies the core problem: the structural asymmetry that has left the Scottish parliament as a spending and tax revenue disbursement machine with none of the real choice-making and discipline that comes with having to raise the money to be spent. Scotland’s MSPs have no real concern for the health and wealth of Scotland’s economy, since their powers are limited to dividing up the Westminster block grant.
Absolutely. Let's make our politicians really responsible for their actions.

Glasgow Airport

There is an interesting article today in BusinessAM (registration and payment required). Glasgow’s harbour operator, Clydeport PLC, is being taken over by Peel Holdings, a company that already runs Liverpool Airport. It seems that Peel Holdings are considering the acquisition of Glasgow Airport should it ever be offered for sale by owners BAA.

Many are of the opinion that BAA’s ownership of both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports is harmful to the Scottish economy. I agree. We need some competition between the two airports assuming that the politicians never agree to allow the construction of a new airport equidistant from the two cities.

Tuesday 19 November 2002

Blame it on capitalism

Mary Kenny writes in The Spectator about the decline in Britain's morals:
There is, in British society at present, a most disastrous retreat from bourgeois culture, as the reports of Theodore Dalrymple in this magazine so alarmingly illustrate
Fair enough. Dalrymple is one of the best observers of our social scene.

But what's this, Mary:

Capitalism has produced an uncouth strain of people who have no idea how to behave, think only of their own gratification, shriek foul-mouthed abuse at anyone who frustrates their whims for two seconds, and have never been properly told off for their appalling conduct.
The "disastrous retreat from bourgeois culture" has been caused by socialism, not capitalism. Government owned courts refuse to punish criminality, government owned schools relentlessly dumb-down British children and government welfare allows the underclass to live without showing respect to others. Capitalism is the friend of bourgeois culture, not its enemy.


A month ago I wrote about the cost of the employers' (that's us) contribution to firefighters' pensions. According to the Daily Mail, the employers' contribution was 22% on top of basic pay. Today the Glasgow Herald says that the contribution is 25%. The various government and union websites that I searched mention only employees' pension deductions and not the additional sums paid by the taxpayers. That makes the total current package £26,904 (not the much quoted average "pay" of £21,431) and the total being demanded £37,500 (not £30,000 which would be the basic pay). I suspect that the majority of private sector workers get NO pension contributions on top of their basic pay. Those that do are seeing the value of their pensions being whittled away as a result of red tape and taxation hitting the underlying investments.

I would like to see journalists quoting total "package" values when writing about people's wages in future.

Monday 18 November 2002

The customer's always right...

...unless he's too wet! An Edinburgh schoolboy tried to take a bus home. But:
Tommy Lindsay was on his way home from his after-school drama club in the pouring rain when he tried to board a number 3 Lothian bus.

But the youngster says the driver stopped him, insisting he was too wet to get on, and then pulled away, leaving the soaking schoolboy facing a half-hour walk home alone in the dark.

Perhaps I don't need to point out that Lothian Buses is a "public" and not a private organisation. The typical government response:
The spokesman would make no comment on whether or not it was company policy to refuse entry to a bus because a person was too wet.
I have a comment. Privatise them. Now.


I found this pro-North Korean story on the web today. Maybe it's wishful thinking on the part of the author but it's certainly scary:
North Korea has 500-1000 missiles that can reach any target in South Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam. It is not likely that North Korea has enough nuclear warheads for all of its missiles, but it does have more than enough biochemical warheads for its missiles. The 'experts' say that North Korean missiles are 'wobbly' and inaccurate. Missiles tipped with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are not meant to take out military targets that require pinpoint accuracy, but they are terror weapons for extended civilian targets - cities, water reservoirs, power grids, and so on.

North Korea has a small fleet of ICBMs - estimated to be a dozen or so. Some of these may reach the US homeland with WMD warheads. Even a single WMD warhead exploding in the United States will cause a pandemonium and major economic disruptions. North Korea's ICBMs are more for political objectives than military. The real punch will come from North Korea's medium and short-range missiles launched from 'fishing' boats on the US homeland from its coastal waters.

Unlike in the Korean War of 1950-53, when Japan escaped unscathed, the next war will see Japanese cities in ruins and its economy devastated. Japanese cities are well within the range of North Korea's 500+ mid-range missiles and North Korea's special forces.

Sunday 17 November 2002

Where's the opposition?

At last weekend's conference, Sean Gabb told us that there is an opposition to New Labour but it is not to be found on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons. In Scotland on Sunday, Kirsty Milne is thinking along the same lines:
If there is a revival on the right, it is unlikely to start among the quarrelsome Conservatives in the Commons. It is more likely to come in a sudden, single-issue gust, through a movement like the Countryside Alliance or a "No" campaign against the euro. There will be an opposition - just not as we know it.

Europe's prospects

Bill Jamieson continues his critique of the EU. Writing about the situation in Germany, he says:
Faced with this appalling picture, Britain’s pro-EU establishment has just nothing to say. Its dwindling members have watched the economic decline of Germany and the deepening slowdown across the euro zone as if in a state of disbelief and denial that the economic model into which they wished to decant the British economy has spectacularly unravelled before their eyes. They are at a complete loss to advance any coherent analysis as to why this has happened, still less any policy for getting Europe out of this mess.
The demise of the EU as a beneficial economic construct, or one in which its people had hope of better times and an end to the relentless slide of Europe on the global stage, is now at an advanced and highly critical stage.This is an extraordinary confession of the political bankruptcy of Europe, and a measure of how complete is the intellectual collapse of the remaining pro-Euroists in Britain.

When this busted flush gets round, there is every possibility of a ferocious policy reassessment, not just of Britain’s status as a "pre in" but of how long we can pretending we really want a place at the rotten heart of Europe. The collapse of idea in Europe may yet be the event that will snap Britain awake from a 30-year delusion.

The "political bankruptcy of Europe", the "intellectual collapse of the remaining pro-Euroists", "this busted flush" - I suspect that it won't be too long before some mainstream politicians see a gaping hole in the political marketplace. Yes, it's time to get out.

Saturday 16 November 2002

Ryrie's Bar update

I forgot to mention that during the quiet period an elderly lady came into the bar asking if she could sell the Salvation Army's War Cry. She was allowed in and made sales. About twenty minutes later in came a scruffy individual trying to sell the Socialist Worker (surely a contradiction in terms). He was immediately shown the door.

Saturday afternoon outing

I decided to partake of a small beverage at Ryrie’s Bar this afternoon. At 4pm there were seven customers and eight bar staff. Most of the locals were a mile away at Murrayfield watching the Scottish rugby team thrash South Africa by 21 to 6.

By 5pm it seemed that there were 700 customers and still 8 bar staff. If the Springbok fans weren’t so big we could have fitted in 1,000.

The football results were on the TV and Kilmarnock, Ayr and Newcastle all won. What a day. If I had placed a bet on this felicitous turn of events I could have bought the pub.

Friday 15 November 2002

The candidate

Gavin Esler thinks that Hillary Clinton may be the Democrats' only hope for the 2004 presidential election. I presume this is the same Mrs Clinton who, according to an opinion poll this week, would be beaten by George Bush by 55% to 38% were the election being held now. Poor old Al Gore would do better, getting 41% against 53% for President Bush. Now if it had been Hillary and not Al who had invented the internet, she might stand a chance.


The National Trust for Scotland is being criticised for not accepting Euros:
The failure of the Scottish body to act has sparked criticism that it will spoil efforts to make Edinburgh more attractive to visitors from overseas.
As a member of the NTS, I support their decision not to waste our resources. Does anyone seriously think that someone from the Eurozone is going to travel all the way to Scotland without knowing to bring some sterling?

Thursday 14 November 2002

Scottish Tories

If our local Tories don't do too well in next year's elections, will they look for a new leader? I was intrigued to read of speculation that Murdo Fraser is being discussed as a possible successor to David McLetchie. According to columnist Katie Grant, Fraser is one of the four real Tories in the Scottish Parliament.

Limited blogging today...

... because the broadband was down for a few hours. How did we live without it?

Wednesday 13 November 2002

Who's got your money?

I regularly have a look at several financial websites. One of my favourites is Financial Sense Online. The Saturday internet radio broadcasts are always worth listening to. I recommend tuning into the second hour of the November 9th broadcast to hear an interview with Dr Lawrence Parks who has written What Does Mr Greenspan Really Think? If you want to know where your pension has gone, listen and read.

University funding

The Principal of Aberdeen University says that graduates should donate more to their colleges. Students at the Open University pay a higher proportion of the cost of their education than do those attending "conventional" universities and the lecturers know this. Perhaps that is why the OU comes in at ninth position in terms of teaching quality in a survey of 100 British universities.

Another new airline

After yesterday's news of new flights at Prestwick, it has been announced that CSA Czech Airlines will be operating between Edinburgh and Prague. This will link what have been described as Europe's two most attractive cities.

Tuesday 12 November 2002

It's a dog's life

So West Virginia's civil servants musn't appear in TV commercials. Nonsense. Let them earn an honest living.

Blame it on "Global Warming"

Scotland's rail services have been hit by a series of landslides this year. The Glasgow Herald reporter writes that:
Global warming has been blamed for the recent spate of landslides causing havoc for rail travellers across Scotland
What the railway spokesman actually said was:
We have obviously been aware of the climatic change over the past few years, and we have put a significant investment programme in place to deal with structures and drainage problems.
And a Glasgow University geographer pointed out that:
climate change was often used as a convenient scapegoat blamed for flooding and landslides. "Landslides are not necessarily caused by extra rainfall," said Dr Evans. "If you steepen a slope artificially, the slope is going to be unstable, as the land tries to return to its natural form. Engineers attempt to restrain the slope, but their solutions are sometimes inadequate. "There are more people than ever before, and we are digging and creating more structures than ever before, so that our engineering solutions need to be modified - otherwise, if the climate continues to become warmer and wetter, we are going to see an increase in landslides and other problems. Other countries have heavy rainfall, yet do not suffer the same problems."
So some of the problems we face may be caused by inadequate engineering solutions, not by the weather.

Note that the geography lecturer says "if the climate continues to become warmer and wetter", not that it will. Perhaps the works of Lomborg are reaching our universities.

More cheap flights

The KLM subsidiary Buzz is to fly between Prestwick and Bournemouth.

Monday 11 November 2002

Going to London

I first visited London when I was about ten years old. The family undertook a two-day car journey to cover the 400 miles to London. This was before the days of motorways. The idea of going by plane would have seemed extraordinary. In 1948, there were two flights a day from Edinburgh to London by DC-3. This provided 60 seats each way. By 1969, ten daily Vickers Vanguard flights to Heathrow gave us about 1,100 seats in each direction. Now, there are 59 daily flights from Edinburgh to the five London airports. That amounts to some 9,000 seats each way. And it can be cheap. My flight back from the Libertarian conference cost the equivalent of five beers. The recent boom at Edinburgh Airport is largely driven by the growth of low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. Their web-based booking and pricing systems enable them to raise and lower fares in response to constantly changing demand. It’s raw capitalism in action. Adam Smith would have loved it.

The Conference

I spent the weekend in London attending the Libertarian Alliance conference which was held in association with Libertarian International. Several of the regular bloggers from Samizdata were present including Brian Micklethwait who now has his own education blog. Also there were Patrick Crozier of Croziervision and UK Transport, Alice Bachini of A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside and Tim Evans of CNE Health.

What I found surprising in this large gathering of British, European and North American libertarians was just how many were not familiar with the world of blogging. This is actually reassuring. The blog is a wonderful propaganda tool for spreading libertarian ideas and at the conference I realised that we are only just starting to use it.

Saturday 9 November 2002

A result

I wasn't surprised to hear that the strike on the Glasgow Underground had been resolved and that the sacked drivers were reinstated. The tough management action seems to have shocked the union and that has probably helped to sort this out so quickly.

Friday 8 November 2002

Public "servants"

What a surprise! It turns out that:
The expenses bill run up by the 129 members of the Scottish Parliament went up by more than £1 million last year, to almost £8 million, it emerged yesterday.
The top spender was the MSP for Kilmarnock, Margaret Jamieson, who:
refused to talk about her extraordinarily high expenses claim yesterday.

However, a Labour Party spokeswoman explained later that an "over-zealous" official in Ms Jamieson’s constituency office had simply ordered too many pre-paid envelopes and this was the reason for the £16,000 Ms Jamieson claimed for stationery.

In fact, so many pre-paid envelopes were ordered for the office that 13,000 have already had to be returned because there is no room to store them all.

Surely the backs of the pre-paid envelopes could have been used for creating Labour's next lot of policies.

Good news....

.... for my old hometown airport. Low-cost flights to the Mediterranean are to be flown from Prestwick Airport by the Edinburgh company Globespan which is launching its own airline.

Narrow escape....

...for the Clydesdale Bank which actually considered doing away with its 164 year-old name:
Steve Targett, chief executive of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, revealed yesterday that National Australia Bank shelved plans for a complete merger of its four UK banks in the spring.

We looked at it earlier this year, but decided not to do it. The strength of each of the brands in their local areas is too strong. The drawbacks would have outweighed the benefits.

Damned right. Scots are probably the most sensitive people on earth about matters of identity (with Yorkshiremen not too far behind!). A change to some bland global name would have cost the Clydesdale a huge chunk of its customers. Whoever decided to "consider" this plan is completely out of touch with the market. Why are some businesspeople so stupid?

More criticism of Rogerson

First, a letter from Andrew Medworth of Selwyn College, Cambridge and also one from Bruce Crichton, Rogerson's original target. There is another anti-Rogerson letter from Valda Redfern in the printed version of The Scotsman.

Thursday 7 November 2002

Hello Mr Rogerson

There has been a response to the John Rogerson letter that I mentioned on Tuesday. The Scotsman has published replies from DSA Murray of Dorking and also from John Webb of Sheffield

The verdict

In April I wrote about the case of the plane spotters convicted in Greece. I am glad that they have been found not guilty on appeal. I can only presume that the judges had a look at this site from which full information about the world's air forces can be found.

Wednesday 6 November 2002

Astounding News

On the day that the Republicans retained the House and won the Senate, the Labour-dominated Strathclyde Passenger Transport has done a "Ronald Reagan" by sacking drivers on the Glasgow Underground who have been on unofficial strike for one day. I can't think what to say about this other than more news must follow.

Canine news

Greyfriars Bobby guarded his master's grave for 14 years. Bobby himself now rests in Greyfriars Kirkyard. A new film of Bobby's life is being made but a row has broken out. It is claimed that the real Bobby was a Skye Terrier. The star of the new film is a West Highland Terrier. The historian of the Skye Terrier Club says of the Westie:
I also have one and she would go with anyone in a minute - no way would a Westie devote its life to a dead master, it would be off with the first kind look it got
As for the rival:
A Skye Terrier, on the other hand, is a thinker, very loyal and has a terrific memory.
Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith needs to appoint a few of these to the shadow cabinet.

Tuesday 5 November 2002

No freedom, no whisky?

City of Edinburgh officials are threatening M's Seafood Restaurant and Whisky Bar, alleging that it is operating as a pub. Why don't the bureaucrats just mind their own business and enjoy one of the £225 nips of whisky? As for myself, I never pay more than £200 a shot.........

Free market myth?

John Rogerson's letter in today's Scotsman states:
The western free market, competitive economy is a myth, dispelled by the subsidies to oil, gas, the nuclear industry, bio-technology, drug companies, defence, transport and farming. There are also relocation grants and regional assistance.
Bruce Crichton, a target of Mr Rogerson, has, as Rogerson knows full well, written numerous letters to the paper advocating a totally laissez-faire economy in which there would be no "subsidies", "grants" or "regional assistance". Why don't socialists like Rogerson actually read some books about freedom?

Monday 4 November 2002

Would Beckham go to jail?

My wife has raised a very interesting question about the alleged plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

Let us imagine that an armed intruder has entered the Beckham residence in the middle of the night. According to the BBC:

David Beckham said he would protect his family
Mr Beckham is a very fit athlete. Let us suppose that there is a struggle resulting in the death of the intruder. Would the police charge Beckham with murder? If they did, and especially if he were imprisoned, there would be a enormous public outcry. I have little doubt that it would be led by Tony Blair assisted by the massed ranks of New Labour. Hypocrites

A question of innocence

Writing about the John Leslie affair, Jimmy Reid asks if the presumption of innocence still applies in the UK. It may well do in this case but it's amazing how little outcry there is from journalists about the many reversals of this traditional safeguard being introduced by the EU.

Welcome to a new blog

It's Brian's EDUCATION Blog from Brian Micklethwait of Samizdata.

Sunday 3 November 2002

Mon Dieu!

The Sunday Herald has been listening in to Tony and Jacques.

Is the Scottish press barking?

Scotland on Sunday columnist Gerald Warner is on fine form today:
In a real democracy, the relationship between the media and the governing élite is that of a pack of rottweilers maintaining surveillance on a gang of burglars. In Scotland, it more closely resembles the relationship between the Brigade of Guards and the sovereign.
Keep biting, Gerald.

Never on a Sunday?

No great surprise here:
The Scottish council which opposed Sunday flights to the Isle of Lewis has made a surprising U-turn by booking tickets for its staff to travel on the Sabbath.
Now that Loganair has borne the criticism of those opposed to the Sunday air service to Stornoway the local council which opposed the new flights has decided to use them. Consistency? No, they're politicians.

More fishy business

As I thought, the likely EU rules for North Sea fishing will treat some as more equal than others:
Under the plans which have been submitted to the EU, the Danes and Norwegians will be allowed to catch cod, whiting and haddock accidentally while fishing for sand eels which are processed and used for animal feed and fertiliser.

The tiny fish are caught in nets with mesh sizes as small as 9mm. Under EU rules, trawlers which fish for so-called industrial species are permitted to catch up to 5% of white fish as part of their haul. And there are no plans to clamp down on the practice.

So accidental catching of cod is OK unless you're Scottish:
However, Scottish fishing crews will be banned from trawling for whiting and haddock because of fears that they might accidentally net cod while at sea, even though stocks of haddock and whiting are not facing the same threat. In addition, industrial fisheries are also seen as damaging to the recovery of cod stocks because cod feed on sand eels and other small fish.
Amazingly, the UK seems to have less clout than the Norwegians who aren't even members of the EU.

Saturday 2 November 2002

And also happy birthday to...

...Natalie Solent
Happy birthday....

... to Samizdata. One year old today.

Is this really enterprise?

The Taiwanese company Chunghwa is the latest casualty in Scotland's "Silicon Glen". There is increasing concern about the long-standing policy of paying overseas companies to open factories over here. The sums of money are extraordinary:
Even with estimates of £80,000 of taxpayers’ money subsidising the employment of each of the 600 people employed by Chunghwa at its Mossend plant, it is by no means the most costly of the firms which were drawn to Scotland by the favourable deals on offer.
but few seem yet to oppose the principle of using taxpayers' cash to subsidise businesses:
The experience has taught the Scottish Executive a lesson it will not forget. With the Motorola closure came the realisation that the policy of throwing money at overseas companies was no longer a viable proposition and the economic aftershocks of 11 September only confirmed the wisdom of that decision. Annual inward investment to Scotland slumped from more than £1 billion to less than £300 million.

Until the Motorola closure, 60 per cent - about £70 million a year - of the RSA budget went to overseas companies. The Executive concluded that the ration had to be reversed, with money going into the development of indigenous companies which would not disappear overseas when the going got tough.

We don't need taxpayers' "money going into the development of indigenous companies" at the command of government. What local businesses - existing and potential - need is for politicians to get out of the way, or, as M. Legendre told Colbert: Laissez-nous faire.

Friday 1 November 2002

A matter of trust

If the public thinks that the black newscaster Sir Trevor McDonald is Britain's most trustworthy person why do we need a plethora of "anti-racist" legislation? Perhaps it's to protect poor Ali G who is the only person to trail Tony Blair in the "Trust Index".

you choose the voice

The voice of Scotland!

For readers outwith (good Scottish word) Scotland, click on this and then on UKM007 or UKF013 to hear how the locals speak.

Thursday 31 October 2002

Let the customer pay

A big row is developing about university tuition. The Principal of St Andrews, Dr Brian Lang has:
split from the country’s other universities by calling for the effective privatisation of the sector, demanding that the Scottish Executive now tables proposals requiring students to pay several thousands of pounds a year.
I have heard all the usual leftists say that it would be outrageous for students to pay the full cost of their education. In other words, the taxpayers in general, most of whom don't go to university, should subsidise those who do. Nonsense. Make the customers pay. Incidentally, the total cost need not be as high as some think. In the Edinburgh Evening News, Peter Clarke says:
Yet universities see themselves as nationalised industries unable to charge the market rates for their ability to boost the life chances of students enjoying the strange mixture of scholarship and holiday camp that is college life. Edinburgh is certainly far richer for our universities. Perhaps they might copy the example of Britain’s only private university. At Buckingham you graduate in two years rather than the leisurely four. It is perplexing that so much of education’s horizons are still set by the needs of the medieval harvest seasons.
Private universities are they way forward.

British History 102

Joyce Malcolm has replied to my e-mail and says:
The crime statistics are computed for England and Wales, not Britain. The laws are British. And the history I covered in my book went back to the late middle ages when there was an English government. I do know the difference. The difference between crime statistics being only for England and laws being for the UK can make for some reader confusion. Sorry to have seemed confusing.
Fair enough. But in the article she wrote:
This sea change in English crime followed a sea change in government policies. Gun regulations have been part of a more general disarmament based on the proposition that people don’t need to protect themselves because society will protect them. It also will protect their neighbors: Police advise those who witness a crime to "walk on by" and let the professionals handle it.

This is a reversal of centuries of common law that not only permitted but expected individuals to defend themselves, their families, and their neighbors when other help was not available. It was a legal tradition passed on to Americans. Personal security was ranked first among an individual’s rights by William Blackstone, the great 18th-century exponent of the common law. It was a right, he argued, that no government could take away, since no government could protect the individual in his moment of need. A century later Blackstone’s illustrious successor, A.V. Dicey, cautioned, "discourage self-help and loyal subjects become the slaves of ruffians."

But modern English governments have put public order ahead of the individual’s right to personal safety. First the government clamped down on private possession of guns; then it forbade people to carry any article that might be used for self-defense; finally, the vigor of that self-defense was to be judged by what, in hindsight, seemed "reasonable in the circumstances."

I think that there is a clear suggestion that there was an "English" government post-Blackstone, that is after the Treaty and Acts of Union.

I make such a big deal out of this issue because strong and bitterly angry objections to use of the term "England" when "Britain" (or the "UK") is correct have appeared in the correspondence columns of the Scottish press virtually daily in the thirty odd years that I have been a reader. I have no doubt at all that this misuse of terms is overwhelmingly the cause of modern Scottish nationalism. The future of the UK is at stake.

I thank Joyce Malcolm for her reply.

Wednesday 30 October 2002

Fishy stories?

I don't trust EU officials including when they are talking about fish stocks:
Fishermen say stocks of cod - which thrive in freezing waters - are only down because global warming has raised the North Sea temperature by two degrees and forced the fish north.
According to the website of the Peterhead fishing boat Budding Rose:
Although the scientific evidence of the state of the Cod fishery is poor, and as a result Cod quotas have drastically cut, the Budding Rose and Lapwing experienced the best fishing of COD they have seen in these waters for sometime.

Tuesday 29 October 2002

British History 101

Patrick Crozier has suggested that the last English government was "about 1534 when Wales was integrated". A very good point, Patrick.

I did a bit of research into the history of Wales on this site. There was continuous English involvement in Wales from the time of the Norman Conquest. Then:

In 1294, the Statute of Rhuddlan confirmed Edward's plans regarding the governing of Wales (apart from the Marches, left more or less as quasi-independent earldoms as rewards for their help in disposing of the Welsh problem). The statute created the counties of Anglesey, Caernarfon and Merioneth, to be governed by the Justice of North Wales; Flint, to be placed under the Justice of Chester and the counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan to be left under the Justice of South Wales.

In the new counties the English pattern of courts was firmly set in place though some Welsh Law was retained in a few civil actions, mainly concerning minor land disputes. The Welsh counties did not elect representatives to Parliament; they remained outside the jurisdiction of the central courts of Westminster. Edward was more than jubilant; for all practical purposes, his troubles with the Welsh were at an end. From that time forward, Wales was to live under an alien political system, playing a subordinate role as an integral part of the kingdom of England. It was as if a nation or a people never existed.

Moving on to the sixteenth century:
After Henry VIII had broken with Rome, he felt ready to further show his power as rightful king of Wales as well as England. The first of the Acts of Union (a modern term describing several acts of legislation having to do with Wales) took place in 1536. Its provisions ensured the political annexation of Wales to England, for it gave notice that part of their intent was "[henceforth] . . .to utterly extirpate all and singular the sinister usage and customs differing from the same {English laws]."

Yet, it must be noted that the Act, one of the most important in the whole history of Wales, was passed without consultation with the Welsh people; there was no agreement of a central Welsh authority or parliament, simply because such an authority did not exist.

So, Wales was formally integrated into England in 1536 but had been subject to strong English control since 1294 and less so before then.

The difference for Scotland was that the union with England in 1707 was the result of Acts being voluntarily passed in both the Edinburgh and London parliaments to combine into a new British parliament. After 1536, then, the London parliament ruled both England and Wales but without the agreement of any Welsh legislature. You could say that it was the parliament of England and Wales or of England and its Welsh colony.

British History 100

There is an interesting article on reasononline by Joyce Malcolm who has written a book on gun control in Britain. Unfortunately, she makes the common and annoying error of mixing up "England" and "Britain". I have sent her this e-mail:
I enjoyed reading your article on Reason Online and look forward to getting the book. But what on earth is the "English government"? The last time there was such an entity was 69 years before the American Declaration of Independence. Hey, even Tony Blair isn't English! Nor are the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Lord Chancellor, the Leader of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Commons, theTransport Secretary, the Chairman of the Labour party, the leader of the Conservative party, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, etc. etc.

Best wishes
David Farrer

I look forward to a reply....

Monday 28 October 2002

One law for them and one law for us

Why shouldn't Lord Irvine pay tax on the art that he has "borrowed" from the public?

Tory hopefuls

A few weeks ago columnist Katie Grant wrote that there were only four real Tories in the Scottish parliament. It is likely that the only Conservatives to be elected in next May's election will come from the proportional representation category of candidates. Hence the importance of candidates' ranking on the party lists which are selected by rank-and-file members. The results are now out. The four "real" Tories have done well. Jamie McGrigor has topped the Highlands and Islands list. In Mid Scotland and Fife, Murdo Fraser and Brian Monteith hold the first two places. The fourth "real" Tory, James Douglas-Hamilton, gained second place in the Lothians area, beaten only by party leader David McLetchie. I have met three of the four and they certainly show libertarian tendencies. Well done guys.

Sunday 27 October 2002


Matthew Lynn gives prize idiotarian Naomi Klein a good fisking:
So, how potent an intellect is Klein? The answer can be found in her new book and the lecture series to support it. Fences and Windows purports to be a serious work of economic, political and social commentary. Under the microscope it turns out to be a collection of prejudices masquerading as arguments and distortions dressed up to look like facts. Its arguments range from the sentimental to the odd and incomprehensible.

Artists against elitists

A couple of months ago I blogged about the Fife artist, Jack Vettriano, and discussed his rejection by the arts establishment. Now, other artists are speaking out:
Several leading figures in the arts world have added their weight to a growing campaign for the work of painter Jack Vettriano to be properly recognised by the Scottish arts establishment.
Perhaps the establishment has a problem with Vettriano's previous career as a coal miner, but as painter Joseph Maxwell says:
"His prints have sold more than anyone else in the country and there’s nothing to say that it is bad art. What’s wrong with the National Galleries recognising the public love of Vettriano? It’s the public’s gallery after all.
Indeed, our National Galleries do belong to the public and not to the tax-consuming elitists who can't compete with a successful artist like Jack Vettriano.